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The Story of the Museum

Updated: Aug 27

The Lomita Railroad Museum was the first of its kind west of Denver, Colorado. It was made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Irene Lewis who donated the Museum to the City of Lomita in honor of her late husband, Martin Lewis, in 1967. It was a rather natural thing for Mrs. Lewis to do since she had been a dedicated railroader and spent many years building Little Engines, a business devoted entirely to developing and manufacturing miniature steam operated locomotives which were sold all over the world. The museum proudly displays some of these locomotives.

The Museum was built in 1966. Much research and study was given to depot structures before the final home for the Museum was chosen. Mrs. Lewis chose to copy the Boston & Maine's Greenwood Station at Wakefield, Massachusetts, which was built before the turn of the century. The Museum has been referred to as a "work of art". Everyone who worked on the building was an artist in his line. This of course includes John W. Gallareto, the designer and builder. No expense was spared to produce a proper and appropriate treasury to house the valuable historical items on display in the Museum.

Artist rendering of the Lomita Railroad Museum
Artist rendering of the Lomita Railroad Museum

Dedicated to the proud era of the steam engine, complete authenticity is the hallmark of the Museum. On display is a Southern Pacific Steam Locomotive (1902-1960) and oil tender. (Learn about their journey to the museum in our article: The Great Move of 1967.) Nearby stand a 1910 Union Pacific Caboose and a modern, all-steel 1949 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe caboose. On display at the Annex Park are a 1923 Union Oil Tank Car and a 1913 Southern Pacific outside-braced wood box car.

And of course who can forget the 72 x 25 ft. Railroad Mural that used to decorate the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Narbonne Ave. Postcards of the old mural are available at the museum.

Mural formerly at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Narbonne Ave.
Mural formerly at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Narbonne Ave.

Part I interview with the "Armchair Traveler" featuring the Lomita Railroad Museum

Part II interview with the "Armchair Traveler" featuring the Lomita Railroad Museum

Our first expansion project was to construct a 35 ft tall water tower adjacent to the locomotive. Water towers were critical to the operation of locomotives in the steam railroading era. This project was completed in 2001.

Water Tower Construction Project Gallery

Soon after, the Irene Lewis park was extensively landscaped. The retaining wall around the park was replaced and water, power and drainage infrastructure were installed in preparation for the future expansion.


An Excerpt from "Track Stars"

by Chris Nichols

Best of LA, Los Angeles Magazine July 7, 2015

Lomita Railroad Museum — "Charming"

"The scene resembles a rendering from a children's book: Sequestered on a suburban side street is a small park with a Victorian-style depot and a giant black locomotive. The grounds feel like a stage set—with a water tank above—and concealed speakers broadcast the sounds of a live steam engine. Glass cases inside the museum overflow with such collectibles as brass switch keys and conductor lanterns. Be sure to stop by the superb little toy shop."

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